Sunday, October 31, 2010


... on the subject of The Proust Questionnaire (immediately below) and, more specifically, Mr. Hitchen's answers to same (which you can read here, if'n you have a mind to do so, Gentle Reader).  Mr. Hitchens goes on to expound upon his answers, leading off with this:
Though this is only a party game (which is the form in which Proust was twice persuaded to play it), it can be revealing. Reviewing my own answers, I, at any rate, can see where I give away more of myself than might be obvious. Take the answer to the question about the “principal defect.” I used also to play the game of “If you were an animal, what animal would you be?” When others chose for me, I was quite frequently a fox. Lately, however, there have been quite a few nominations of “badger.” This is not merely a question of my becoming stouter and more grizzled. It is the “down” side of what I consider one of my happier skills, as well. In other words, I would often rather have an argument or a quarrel than be bored, and because I hate to lose an argument, I am often willing to protract one for its own sake rather than concede even a small point.
Plainly, this unwillingness to give ground even on unimportant disagreements is the symptom of some deepseated insecurity, as was my one-time fondness for making teasing remarks (which I amended when I read Anthony Powell’s matter-of-fact observation that teasing is an unfailing sign of misery within) and as is my very pronounced impatience. The struggle, therefore, is to try and cultivate the virtuous side of these shortcomings: to be a genial host while only slightly whiffled, for example, or to be witty at the expense of one’s own weaknesses instead of those of other people.
About the last bits... I know people exactly like those about whom Mr. Hitchens speaks... those benighted souls to whom being right takes precedence... always... over being correct, in both the factual and metaphysical senses.  And like Mr. Hitchens I often find myself on the wrong side of that fence.  And further, once one becomes aware of this weakness one tends to try and overcome it.  If one has a proper sense of place and is reasonably secure in one's own skin, of course.

And then there's this:
If you were offered the chance to live your own life again, would you seize the opportunity? The only real philosophical answer is automatically self-contradictory: “Only if I did not know that I was doing so.” To go through the entire experience once more would be banal and Sisyphean—even if it did build muscle—whereas to wish to be young again and to have the benefit of one’s learned and acquired existence is not at all to wish for a repeat performance, or a Groundhog Day. And the mind ought to, but cannot, set some limits to wish-thinking. All right, same me but with more money, an even sturdier penis, slightly different parents, a briefer latency period… the thing is absurd.
I never thought of it in quite that way but now that the thought has been uttered... well, yes.  It IS ludicrous to think that we could even begin to "do it all over again" if one presupposes a certain knowledge and appreciation for how things worked out in the past.  I'm not given to over-thinking things... which might COULD be a significant shortcoming of mine...  but I certainly would buy into the "more money, even sturdier penis" aspects of living life over.  The rest of it is absurd in the extreme.

Apropos of this... if you're into this sorta thing, i.e., The Proust Questionnaire... Vanity Fair's archives contain 18 web pages of people responding to the questionnaire; it's a regular feature.  You'll find Mr. Hitchens' response therein, as well as those from people as varied as Helen Gurley Brown, Eric Clapton, Bill Maher (who proves to be as shallow and worthless as one would reasonably expect), and Walter Cronkite.  I've spent hours there, Gentle Reader.  Which prolly sez something about me that may not be to my liking.


So.  We're nearly at end of Hitch 22 and we've already bought our next read, visible at right.

One might be tempted to deploy the UCR cliché about my next book... i.e., "from the sublime to the ridiculous"... but I most certainly will not, nor do I think that would be fitting.  Mr. Richards is every bit as much a philosopher and raconteur as Mr. Hitchens... he just works in a different medium.  I have spent many more hours with Keef's magnificent riffs and truisms than I have with Mr. Hitchens', if measured solely by the weight of time passing.  And I wanna know... or at least gain some insight... as to how one manages to live the sort of life Keith led for 67 years and still remain upright and sentient.  

Speaking of Keith... I thought it right and fitting he should be the subject of Today's Happy Hour Soundtrack:

Ya didn't know he could sing, didja?


Speaking of Today's Happy Hour Soundtrack... we seem to have cornered the Google market on that particular term.  From a recent visitor's google search that we chased up, just for fun:

Heh.  "We're Number One!"  And two, and three...  I might have to buy that album that's Number Four, tho.  Just sayin'.


  1. I read a review of Keith Richards' book last week, and it was surprisingly surprising. Or perhaps I should say unexpected in that Richards comes off as a human being, not a drug-ravaged rockstar. I'm eager to hear your take.

  2. Wow, Moogie... you're QUICK! I still have a few pages left in "Hitch 22," but rest assured I WILL deliver my impressions of "Life."

  3. I have always wanted to be a fox and will argue the point.

  4. I think Twain put it best when he said (I'm sure this is a slight paraphrase, but it captures the gist), "Only an insane man would choose to live his life over."

  5. I know people exactly like those about whom Mr. Hitchens speaks... those benighted souls to whom being right takes precedence... always... over being correct, in both the factual and metaphysical senses.

    You just described my family. They'd rather be right at all costs, no matter who they hurt to be that way.

    Could be why I'm usually (but not always) the first person to admit they are wrong, even when I know I'm right.

    And I am working on that.

  6. Jim: Ol' Mr. Clemens was a wise dude.

    Kris: I'm a work-in-progress, too. But in the other direction.

  7. I saw Richards in a recent interview, promoting his book. The guy is spastic to say the least. There's no way he wrote a book, so I assume there is a real writer listed somewhere on the cover.

  8. He has a co-writer by the name of James Fox, Anon.


Just be polite... that's all I ask.